This week the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine (ACLU) and the ACLU Voting Rights Project asked the US Department of Justice to commence an investigation into potential Voting Rights Act violations by Maine Secretary of State Charlie Summers.

In a five-page letter to Summers they documented their concerns "about your recent actions targeting legally registered student voters in Maine for investigatory action and sending them threatening correspondence likely to deter them from exercising their voting rights. Such actions provide strong evidence that you are violating federal statutory protections against intimidation and coercion of individuals in the exercise of their right to vote, as well as constitutional protections of the right to vote."

In July, Summers initiated an investigation into out-of-state college students who were registered to vote in the state after Maine Republican Party Chairman Charlie Webster complained that he believed that some students had committed voter fraud. Summers' own investigation did not back up that claim. Nonetheless, Summers recently sent letters to 206 out-of-state students attending Maine colleges that informed them that if they are licensed to drive they must get a Maine driver's license and register their vehicles in Maine by October 20 or forfeit the right to vote in the state.

"Secretary Summers abused the power of his office when he used attack politics to launch an investigation into students who had done nothing wrong," said Zachary Heiden, legal director for the ACLU of Maine. "As the person in charge of overseeing elections in Maine, Secretary Summers has a duty and responsibility to treat all voters equally under the laws and the Constitution, and he failed to do that."

In the letter to Summers, the ACLU of Maine also requested Summers retract the edict sent to the college students and apologize for treading on their right to vote.

"We should be encouraging all eligible voters, and especially young voters, to get involved in the political process. Increased participation makes our democracy stronger," said Katie O'Connor, staff attorney for

the ACLU Voting Rights Project. "Instead, the secretary of state has scared a new

generation of Maine voters away from the polls."

The ACLU of Maine is asking students who think their right to vote has been threatened by the actions of the secretary of state to contact their offices at 774-5444 or info@aclumaine.org.